This morning, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his approval of the proposed Cape Wind offshore wind energy project in the Nantucket Sound. This is an important decision, as the Cape Wind project will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. Offshore wind power has a significant foothold in Europe, but not in the United States. This approval should finally put an end to years of delay and pitched political battles over this one little project, and could pave the way for more offshore projects. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined Secretary Salazar at the announcement, and commended the Administration’s decision. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), on the other hand, followed his predecessor’s misguided opposition to the project and attacked the Administration’s decision.
Secretary Salazar’s approval is hardly a total victory for Cape Wind. The project is years behind schedule. In 2002, federal regulators predicted the project could be approved within 18-months, but it’s only now happening eight years later. In green-lighting the project, Secretary Salazar ordered it to be scaled down significantly and will require the developers to take additional steps to mitigate potential impacts of the development. These conditions, combined with the delays, increase the project’s costs, and could discourage some potential investors in offshore wind and other alternative energy projects.
Approval of Cape Wind was long overdue. If the Obama Administration is serious about promoting wind and other forms of alternative energy, it needs to do more to create a favorable regulatory climate for future projects. In particular, it needs to lay out clear standards and guidelines for future projects and prevent last-minute efforts to sabotage the approval process so investors and developers can more accurately gauge the time and costs involved in siting new facilities. The Administration appears to get this. Secretary Salazar acknowledged concerns about the time and expense involved with approving Cape Wind and highlighted administration initiatives to streamline and rationalize future permit approvals. If it follows through, there is no reason why Cape Wind should not be the first of many offshore wind projects on our shores.